The study of meaning production in urban spaces based on the structuration theory case study: Tabriz Bazaar

Document Type : Research Paper



Extended abstract:
Urban spaces have always expressed the demands and desires of their users. So, reading of these spaces, as a text, which is possible by understanding the meaning making process in its context, could be beneficial to perceive lots of urban issues. Throughout the production of meaning in urban spaces, human gets into interaction with his surroundings and his mind is united with the environmental context of meaning. This process leads to make a legible space for its users with specific structural and behavioral characteristics.
This study is aimed to discuss the meaning making process and space reading from a special point of view. The main subject of this study is the analysis and description of how to produce and reproduce meaning in urban spaces. The emphasis of this study is on social and cultural contexts of urban spaces as a readable “text”. Accordingly, the issue of meaning making process has been studied from a specific approach that is founded on “semantics” in linguistics, including two main perspective: “Structuralism” and “Interpretation of the reader”. Based on Structuralism perspective meaning is the product of “syntax of elements” in sentence and the “text”. So, meaning comes from the language structures and the author has a critical role in meaning making. On the other hand, in interpretive perspective, meaning is product of paraphrasing and interpretation of the reader. So, the reader “discovers” the meaning and “creates” it. The second approach has an interactive perspective. According to this approach meaning is the result of both, “structure” and “interpretation” or in other words, “language” and “the world”. Today, this approach has lots of advocators due to its inclusion and multidimensional substance. This approach is widely used in explaining issues in many fields of human sciences. “Structuration theory” of Anthony Giddens in sociology is one of this theories that has been fed from the interaction concept in semantics. This theory consists of two main themes: “structure” and “human agency” in social phenomena. The term “structure” generally refers to "rules and resources" and more specifically to "the structuring properties allowing the 'binding' of time-space in social systems". These properties make it possible for similar social practices to exist across time and space and that lends them "systemic" form. Agency, as Giddens calls it, is human action and is critical to both the reproduction and the transformation of society. The theory of structuration is a social theory of the creation and reproduction of social systems that is based on the analysis of both structure and agents , without giving primacy to either. Comparison and accommodation of this viewpoint with context of city and urban spaces, as a text, leads to form a framework for analysis of meaning making factors in urban spaces.
Description of procedures and determining the factors of meaning production throughout this point of view could help to define a proper framework for improving the knowledge and practice of designers to create the meaningful spaces.
The methodology of this study, is mainly formed on an explanatory and interpretative method. This study is inspired by semantic theories and approaches about reading a text that is generalized to social science to conceive social phenomenon in “life text”. Accordingly, the urban space has been considered as a text and its meaning production processes have been addressed in this paper. First, the idea of “urban space as a text” has been explained and then, the parameters of its meaning combination has been analyzed. Finally, the hypothesis has been examined in urban context, “Persian Bazar”.
Results and discussion
By accommodation of characteristics of society and spaces, and considering it as a “text” the structuration theory could be generalized to urban spaces. The urban space as a text, includes mental and spatial aspects that is describable and is connective like the language and also makes situations that human proof himself.
It has been concluded that written space (structure) and verbal space (act of interpretation) are the main factors in reading and interpretation of living spaces. The meaningful space, on one hand, has the practical conditions of people daily lives and their mental structures and on the other hand provides a place for arranging the act and behaviors that are based on beliefs, attitudes, goals, choices of their users. So, the structure of space along with cultural and social properties which are expressed in behavioral patterns of the users, produce meaning.
For examining this result, Persian Bazar has been studied throughout the concept of structuration theory. Bazar has been considered as a meaningful place with a legible and coherent structure and as a collection of behavioral patterns and social acts that represent the Islamic-Iranian lifestyle. The study shows that the association and contribution of spatial structure and physical characteristics with current activities of this spaces make Bazar meaningful.
This study tries to discuss meaning production in urban spaces by utilizing the “linguistics” and “Sociological" approaches. The method that has been applied in this study is a viewpoint for perceiving meaning from the text in linguistics and extending it to urban spaces. Since meaning production in a text depends on “language structure” and “interpretation” of it, so in generalizing this concept to space, two parameters have been considered: “structure of space” and “human agency”. So, syntax of space and combination of physical elements with behavioral acts in space lead to emerging meaning.
In conclusion, acts and behaviors of human that origin from his cognition about the world, have significant place in perceiving the city and communicating with its spaces. In other words, Interactions between human agency and environmental structure, cause the meaningful perception from the space and connection to environment.
Keywords: meaning of urban space, interpretation, structuralism, structuration theory, human agency


Main Subjects

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